The new horror film Wildling, co-written and directed by Fritz Böhm, re-examines the werewolf myth as a coming of age story. While not a conventional werewolf story in terms of a character being bitten and changing with the arrival of the full moon, it's very much a tale of a young woman coming to terms with the "animal" self that goes hand in hand with sexual maturity. It's a movie about father figures attempting to delay womanhood and mother figures who understand the natural order of things. It means well, even when it doesn't have a lot to say.
Wildling is the hardest kind of movie for me to write about: a smaller, independent genre film that's executed well and can use the signal boost of positive word of mouth, but which is hard to recommend too enthusiastically because it does very little that I haven't seen done in movies already. There's certainly more of a folklore approach to the monster of Wildling that feels somewhat novel, in particular a backwoods character played by James Le Gros who pops up from time to time. The performances are all really strong, in particular Powley at the center and a welcome Liv Tyler bringing warmth and authority and decency to the film just by basically being herself. The direction is elegant and evocative of the mood Böhm is trying to capture, demonstrating a strong understanding of how to use lighting and location.
Bel Powley is good enough in the lead role that her performance alone helps shift the focus of the story from one of a family or a community watching a girl become a monster to that of a girl living in fear of becoming a monster herself. And that works! It's just still not enough for me to recommend Wildling as more than a well-done coming-of-age horror film that executes but doesn't transcend. It's a good movie that doesn't add much to its particular subgenre, a well-acted and well-directed effort that I'm unlikely to revisit.
Wildling is currently playing in limited release and on VOD from IFC Midnight.